Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte BronteJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Publisher: Splinter
Number of pages:  576 pages
My copy: paperback, bought from Fully Booked

Fiery passion, shocking secrets, and a compelling, vulnerable heroine in peril have made Jane Eyre an enduring favorite. When Jane becomes governess at gloomy Thornfield Hall, she falls deeply in love with the brooding, tormented Edward Rochester–and he with her. But soon Jane realizes that the house holds terrifying mysteries. What is Rochester hiding from Jane? Will their smoldering relationship survive–or will Jane be left heartbroken and exiled?

* * *

Jane Eyre is one of those books that I’ve always planned to read ever since I said I’d read more classics, but of course, never got around to because there was no immediate reason for me to read it. I was also very wary about how much time I would have to invest with this, knowing how dated the language of classic books can be, and its length. With all the books waiting on my TBR pile, and the slowness of my reading pace lately, do I really want to read a thick classic book?

But alas, I had to read Jane Eyre because, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, I was assigned to be a moderator for my book club’s fourth monthly book discussion. As someone who likes grabbing an excuse to do things, I took this chance to finally get cracking on this hefty volume. I want to do a good job on moderating the discussion, so I wanted to get this right.

Jane Eyre is an orphan, and she lived with her aunt and cousins for the past first ten years of her life. She hated living there as she was often maltreated by her aunt and cousins, so when she was finally given a chance to go to school, she takes the chance without looking back. Her years in the Lowood boarding school taught her much and prepared her for her job as governess at Thornfield Hall. But even with all these, none of these really prepared her for meeting (and eventually falling in love with) her employer, Edward Rochester.

I was surprised at the readability of Jane Eyre. It was very easy to get into the prose and even if I wasn’t able to read a few pages on several days because I was too busy, I was able to dive back in to the story without having to read back a couple of pages (or worse, read right back from the start, like how I was during the first time I read Pride and Prejudice). Jane was very easy to like and her point of view was such a pleasure to read, her thoughts showing her as a pretty independent and mature woman for her age. It’s not fluff, but I can’t really call it dark either because I never felt that it wasn’t even with all the references to the silent manor and the weather and all that.

Of course, one cannot deny the romantic aspect of this novel. It was oftentimes cute and there were some swoon-worthy moments, but I just had to laugh at how corny and Rochester’s lines can be! I often called it “Style mo bulok” (loose translation: a Filipino slang term for old-fashioned romantic moves) because his lines were often laughable even if it is still romantic. Their conversations/verbal sparring made their interactions most fun, and I liked how their affection for each other developed from this and not from just physical attraction. I liked how the story didn’t focus purely on the romance (even if it was pretty much the climax of it), but on Jane’s choices based on what she knew was good for her and her heart. I can see what makes this book a feminine novel, but it’s not too much in-your-face that makes this book less appealing to males. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a lot of guys who finished reading the book and shared their insights in the book discussion. :)

A few days ago, I was talking to some bookish friends about Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, and one of them talked about how the Brontë sisters’ novels appeal more to the younger crowd while people tend to appreciate Austen more when they’re done with high school or college. Brontë novels tend to focus more on the drama, almost akin to Filipino soap operas that bring on the drama to reel the audience in. I find myself agreeing because comparing Jane Eyre with the few Austens I’ve read, it does have that kind of generation gap. Of course it’s understandable because Austen was born before Charlotte Brontë, and Jane Eyre was written while Charlotte was young. But there is a certain kind of sophistication and lack of drama (and complicated language, I admit!) in Austen’s novels that make them different. That doesn’t mean Jane Eyre isn’t good, of course, or that there’s a superior author between them, but it’s just an interesting thing to note. While Jane Eyre didn’t exactly make me swoon like Persuasion did, I think Jane Eyre is a very good classic book. I am glad that I was given the excuse to read it now rather than later, and I am still very honored to be the one to moderate our book club’s Jane Eyre discussion. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
Chachic’s Book Nook
Bookish Little Me

Required Reading: April

Look, the first quarter of 2012 is over. I cannot believe it. (And goodbye, favorite month! Till next year!)

March was all sorts of busy and fun, mostly because of work and the birthday. But this busy status and all the days/nights out was taxing to my reading and I was still oh-so-slow. I am currently behind my reading challenge by 4-5 books, and a part of me is crazily scrambling to catch up. But I can’t seem to.

Even so, the bigger part of me didn’t really mind the slowness because I think I was able to read a lot of good books in the past month. It was more of quality over quantity and it’s a nice way to spend my favorite month knowing you read good books. :D So, a recap:

There were some fun reads and some great reads in the past month too, and like I said, it was quite a nice reading month, even if I was so slow.

Now what’s in store for April?

Required Reading: April

Continue Reading →

1984

1984 by George Orwell1984 by George Orwell
Signet Classics, 298 pages

Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.

It’s the year 1984, and the world people live in isn’t the same as the world we know today. In this version of the world, everyone lives under close scrutiny of Big Brother — or at least representatives of Big Brother in the form of the Inner Party and the Thought Police. Here we meet Winston, a simple Party guy who is slowly realizing that maybe, there is something else other than the life he is living. Maybe the Party and Big Brother isn’t always right. Maybe, just maybe, the truth that he’s known all his life isn’t the truth at all. What follows is Winston’s “quest” to find out the real truth and perhaps even bring down Big Brother. But is Winston a big enough force to be reckoned with?

Totally honest moment: I would not have read 1984 if it wasn’t our book club’s book discussion book for January 2012. Perhaps I would have read it someday later, but not anytime soon. As much as I like dystopian novels (although not as much as I used to), I just didn’t have enough interest in this book as my other friends did. But like I said, I should read it because I’m a moderator of the book club and it feels like I should read it.

During our book discussion, we were asked to give a word to describe the book, and my chosen word was challenging. It was challenging for me not because I couldn’t grasp the story but because it took me an entire month to read the book. And it was a pretty short book too, if you think about it and I read pretty fast, so taking that long to read a certain book is really a new thing. But the truth is, I just wasn’t that invested in it. You know how there are some books that reel you right in and would make you want to lose sleep while reading it? Well, 1984 didn’t give me that impression. It’s not that I didn’t like it — I did, but I just wasn’t that invested in it to keep on reading it continuously. I think I may have read 10 books while reading this book — if that isn’t proof enough, then I don’t know already. :P

1984 is a good novel, but I feel like my reading is slightly tainted by all the similarly themed YA dystopia books I have read. You know how the main characters often prevailed, or at least almost prevailed in all the YA dystopia books? Well, it isn’t exactly the case here. I liked how the first part of the book started, but the second and third parts weren’t exactly my cup of tea. Oh sure, they were brutal, they were unexpected, but like I said, I was used to reading characters who go against all the odds and somehow win even against a TOTALLY EVIL GOVERNMENT. Perhaps it’s a YA thing, and this book was written way before the ones I know, so it has a really different approach.

The thing about 1984 though, is how it could have been real. Granted, I had myself pulled away form the narrative so much that I couldn’t imagine it being real in the current society and all, but some points during our discussion got me thinking that yeah, maybe it could be possible. Just take social networking for example — how many people can truly say they have their own privacy when they have a Facebook profile or update Twitter every minute or so? Or do we even really know how much information we put out online and how it affects us? It’s a lot to think about.

Even so, there’s a certain separation for me and 1984. Again, it’s not that I didn’t like it, but I also did not really love it as much as other people do. It’s definitely one of those books that should be read if only to get a real grasp of how a dystopian society could look like. Honestly, I don’t think a reader can be a true dystopian fan unless you have read 1984 (and Lois Lowry’s The Giver). You haven’t really seen a big bad evil government until you’ve read the classics, IMHO.

On a related note, though, I think having a real and intelligent book discussion on this book helped me understand and appreciate it more than I would have. It just goes to show that reading isn’t always a solitary activity, and it’s nice to be with like-minded people often with differing opinions to discuss a piece of literature. :)

Rating:

My copy: Kindle edition

Other reviews:
Bookish Little Me
Reading is the Ultimate Aphrodisiac

Little Lord Fauntleroy / The Secret Garden

Well, what do you know. I actually made it to my classics challenge this year! I know that I wouldn’t be able to read another Austen before 2011 ends, nor even try to read another long classic (Little Women, I’m looking at you) with all the other books I want to read, so I settled for an author that I have known and trusted since I was a kid: Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Little Lord Fauntleroy Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Publisher: Public Domain
Number of pages: 164
My copy: ebook, free from Amazon Kindle Store

Young Cedric Errol lives in poverty in New York with his mother. On the death of his English father — disinherited for marrying an American — Cedric is summoned to the family castle by his grandfather. There the crotchety Earl plans to transform the boy into a docile, traditional lordling.

But Little Lord Fauntleroy does the converting. Through his goodness and innocence, he wins the hearts of his English relatives, who welcome his mother warmly.

* * *

Would you believe that I have never heard of Little Lord Fauntleroy until this year? When I was a kid, I only knew of little Cedric “Ceddie” Errol through this morning cartoon that I watch during summer vacation, same as where I first found out who Sara Crewe was. Ceddie is a little boy who lives with his mom and dad in New York. His dad passed away, and shortly after, they found out that Ceddie was actually the next in line as the Earl of Dorincourt in England, and so he and his mom goes to England. Despite this good fortune, Ceddie’s grandfather, the current Earl, is angry at the Ceddie’s mother because he thought of her as a commoner and he forbade her to see Ceddie, hoping the little boy will forget his mom. The Earl had a bad reputation because of his attitude, but Ceddie wins him over and eventually makes him accept his mother as a part of the family.

Ceddie and his grandfather

The cartoon I remember was pretty accurate to the book, except maybe that the Earl was more obstinate and harder to like in the cartoon. I also thought the cartoon Ceddie looked a little bit too feminine, and there was that entire flute playing thing that was definitely not in the book. However, as I was reading the book, I realized that the Ceddie in the book was more adorable than the one in the cartoon. Perhaps it’s because it’s been so long since I last watched it, but I thought the Little Lord Fauntleroy in the book was more charming than the one I remember. The little boy is the kind that I think everyone dreams of meeting — you know, that perfect little kid who has a heart of gold, one who can melt even the hardest of hearts.

Reading Little Lord Fauntleroy was a treat because of the main character. In a way, it reminded me a lot of A Little Princess because of the the similarities between the two of them, even if I still think Sara had it harder than Ceddie. Even if it seems almost entirely impossible to know someone who could be as nice and as good-hearted as Ceddie was, somehow, this book made me wish that there are still good hearts like that out there, someone whose kindness knows no bound and is determined to see the good in everything and everyone.

The Secret GardenThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Publisher: Public Domain
Number of pages: 330
My copy: ebook, free from Amazon Kindle Store

What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle’s estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoiled, sickly, and certain she won’t enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty–unaware that she is changing too.

But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. His tantrums are so frightful, no one can reason with him. If only, Mary hopes, she can get Colin to love the secret garden as much as she does, its magic will work wonders on him.

* * *

Here’s another book that I also watched as a cartoon when I was younger, although I think I read this one first before I watched it. However, for the life of me, I cannot remember the details of this book anymore. I just know there was Mary, and there was Dickon the outdoor boy, and Colin, the invalid cousin. I cannot remember the tiny details even if I know I have watched the movie several times (the image of Mary’s hand extending out of the ivy curtain from the door of the secret garden beckoning someone to come in is still clear in my mind). If in A Little Princess and in Little Lord Fauntleroy, the author’s main characters were easy to love characters, The Secret Garden takes a different turn by introducing Mary Lennox also known as “Mistress Mary quite contrary”. Mary is a spoiled and neglected kid from India who grew up with her mom’s servants answering every beck and call. A cholera outbreak left the little girl orphaned, and she was adopted by an equally distant uncle to live in Misselthwaite Manor, instructed to keep out of locked rooms and not be a bother. But when Mary discovers a secret garden locked for the past decade within the manor grounds and decided to take care of it, she finds herself changing from the spoiled kid to someone more likeable. As Mary was going through the changes, she discovers her sickly cousin Colin who believes that he will die soon of some kind of disease. Mary shares her secret with Colin — but will the garden’s magic have an effect on someone who’s so convinced that he will no longer see tomorrow?

The Secret Garden was refreshing from all the Frances Hodgson Burnett books I’ve read because Mary Lennox wasn’t an easy character to like. She was spoiled, stubborn and was used to having her own way. I remember the cartoon showing Mary was a pretty nice girl but the people in the Manor — particularly Mrs. Medlock — were too strict, but reading the book told me otherwise. There really wasn’t anything likeable about her, up until she changes because of the garden and even then, she still had those little quirks that could be annoying.

Mary Lennox from the cartoons

But the interesting thing here was when Mary found herself meeting a boy who was even more spoiled than she was, and one who suffers a very bleak mindset. It was interesting to see how Mary challenges the way Colin thinks by just being her spoiled, stubborn self. The scene where Mary dealt with Colin’s tantrums was one of my favorites, because Mary stayed true to her character up until the end — I find myself thinking like one of the servants in the Manor thinking “How brave of her to do something like that!” Colin was really a piece of work, and I found myself taking even a longer time to warm up to him even if I knew he gets to be a better person in the end. On the other side of the spectrum is Dickon, the boy from the moor and the animal charmer. I remember his playful character in the cartoon, but I think the book version was less mischievous but equally charming, especially with all the animals he brings around. Dickon provides a good balance between Mary and Colin, and I had to admit I was very excited for his first appearance in the book as I was reading it!

Mary, Colin and Dickon

While the two other Frances Hodgson Burnett novels I’ve read dealt with how a kind heart can weather any storm or soften any heart, The Secret Garden was kind of the reverse. This book showed how beauty and nature can revive a tired and hopeless spirit, how the “Magic” in everyday things can change even the sourest and saddest people into living. It’s easy to see why this book became so timeless: at some point, we’ve all hoped to find an old key that leads to a secret garden where we can find solace, to watch beauty unfurl and to be a part of magic of nature.

Of all her novels I’ve read, I find The Secret Garden as the most realistic but also the most whimsical. While my favorite is still A Little Princess, I think The Secret Garden is the type of book that would be a good companion for anyone who’s recovering from any kind of heartache or sadness. After all, we can all use a little bit of Magic in our lives. :)

Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.

“Where, you tend a rose, my lad,
A thistle cannot grow.” (p. 289)

Rating:
Little Lord Fauntleroy –
The Secret Garden –

Other reviews:
taking a break – The Secret Garden

Daddy-Long-Legs

Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean WebsterDaddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Publisher: Public domain
Number of pages: 192
My copy: ebook, free from Amazon Kindle Store

The oldest at a dreary home for foundlings, Judy Abbott finds her life completely changed when, with the help of a mysterious benefactor, she is granted her wish to be able to go to college. A meeting with the rich, handsome uncle of her snobbish roommate sets Judy on the road to discovering her secret friend.

* * *

In my quest to find more classics to read and catch up with my classics reading challenge, I stumbled upon Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster in Goodreads. I remember seeing a review of this somewhere there, too, and seeing it had a lot of favorable reviews, I decided to download it for free from the Kindle store.

The reviews have told me enough to know that a cartoon was based on this book. It’s vaguely familiar, but I really cannot remember much of it, save for the main character, Judy, who reminds me of Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables:

Judy Abbott

I think this started airing when I was already in school so I hardly had the time to watch it, which also probably explains that why my memory of this cartoon is choppy at best.

Anyway, I decided to read this short book last week, because I needed something light to make my brain recover from all the crazy writing madness in NaNoWriMo. Daddy-Long-Legs is the story of Jerusha Abbott, later known as Judy, the oldest orphan in John Grier Home who was sent to college by an anonymous Trustee. The only condition that she needs to fulfill as “payment” for the education was for her to write letters about her studies to a certain Mr. John Smith. She calls this mysterious benefactor “Daddy Long Legs” because the only thing she knew about him was he was a tall person based on his shadow:

Daddy Long Legs

What follows is Judy’s letters to Daddy Long Legs for the next four years of college, telling him of her lessons, her dorm room and her decorations (like desk name plates), her friends joyful Sally and snobbish Julie, her college adventures, her summers spent at Lock Willow farm and even some kind of romance. In the midst of all these, Judy gets frustrated with the mysteriousness and the distance that Daddy Long Legs has put between them, and she yearns to know more about this man who had noticed her and helped her out of the kindness of his heart.

So all reviews I read about this book are right: Daddy-Long-Legs is such a refreshing read. This thin volume is brimming with charm and honesty that I can only remember from, yes, Anne of Green Gables. Judy is such a charming narrator and her stories are so easy to relate to. Her letters are filled with wit and interesting stuff that I wondered why Daddy Long Legs lasted that long not replying to her. Case in point:

Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,

You never answered my question and it was very important.

ARE YOU BALD?

I think I liked Judy a lot because she reminded me so much of myself. She was never too nice, nor was she especially mean. She recognizes that she can be mean at times, especially when she gets frustrated or annoyed by other people or with herself. Most of her letters were introspective at most, and they’re really the things that friends share with each other over long talks. Here are some memorable passages:

I think that the most necessary quality for any person to have is imagination. It makes people able to put themselves in other people’s places. It makes them kind and sympathetic and understanding. It ought to be cultivated in children. But the John Grier Home instantly stamped out the slightest flicker that appeared. Duty was the one quality that was encouraged. I don’t think children ought to know the meaning of the word; it’s odious, detestable. They ought to do everything from love.

She seemed to be channeling Anne Shirley there, don’t you think?

It isn’t the great big pleasures that count the most; it’s making a great deal out of the little ones — I’ve discovered the true secret of happiness, Daddy, and that is to live in the now. not to be for ever regretting the past, or anticipating the future; but to get the most that you can out of this very instant.

I especially loved it when she waxed poetic about books and writing — it was almost like I’m a girl after her own heart. :)

I look forward all day to evening, and then I put an ‘engaged’ on the door and get into my nice red bath robe and furry slippers and pile all cushions behind me on the couch, and light the brass student lamp at my elbow and read and read and read one book isn’t enough.

There is even a little bit of romance in the book that was cute. And of course, Judy excels in writing about them, too:

…and I miss him, and miss him, and miss him. The whole world seems empty and aching. I hate the moonlight because it’s beautiful and he isn’t here to see it with me.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t really surprised when the mysterious Daddy Long Legs was finally revealed, and that is probably because of all the reviews I’ve read. Don’t worry, if you’ve read this far in my review, I’ve taken care not to spoil anything (at least, I don’t think I’ve written anything obvious :P). The revelation was cute since it was still written in Judy’s point of view, and I think it ties up the book quite nicely.

So if the all the random babble I wrote above hasn’t convinced you enough, let me say it again: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster is a cute and charming book. I’m very glad I chose this book to read during my post-NaNo recovery time. :)

Rating:

Other reviews:
The Book Smugglers